zarzo basket

Making a zarzo basket

In these times of social distancing, meeting up with other people is a rare pleasure. So it was a delight to attend a workshop last Saturday on making a zarzo basket with Nicki of Willow and Yoga, especially as the course had been postponed from April.

Education is exempt from the limit of six people in a group, but there were only four people in the class plus Nicki anyway. With tables well spaced out and plenty of hand sanitiser, we didn’t feel unsafe at any stage. And we had an interested audience of cows looking in from the field beyond the large windows!

The zarzo basket is apparently based on the design of a Spanish tray that was used to drain cheese. I love the movement of its flowing lines.

Nicki explained about the different types of willow and had provided different colours to emphasise the design of the basket. These included Flanders Red, Black Maul and steamed chocolate willow.

Unlike the stake and strand baskets I’ve made with willow before, all the weavers for the sides are added at once, rather than as you go along. So once it’s set up, all you have to do is weave!

Here’s the base set up with all the weavers added.

zarzo basket base

The different colours of willow look very attractive.

Then we used the weavers to create the sides of the basket – here’s the first set.

weaving zarzo basket sides

Nicki had lots of useful advice about how to slide the weavers in smoothly and keep the uprights, well, upright.

I got carried away after this and didn’t take any more photos until the basket was practically finished. But we wove another two sets of weavers along the sides. The different coloured willow not only looks attractive – it helps you keep count of where you’ve got to! 😉

We finished by locking the weavers in by crossing them over at the ends, and binding the handle.

zarzo basket finish

It was wonderful learning a new technique and having the space to accommodate 8ft willow rods. And the other three students in the class, who had never done any basketry before, were also very pleased with their baskets.

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15 thoughts on “Making a zarzo basket”

  1. I love this basket – it’s curving lines are very pleasing to look at and very different to most baskets. Lovely! (And I’ll bet you were delighted with the results!)

  2. I think this is the most lovely basket I have seen. Really beautiful. Thank you for showing the photos of the set up. My mother was a basket weaver, and taught others to do so, back in the 70’s-80’s. I grew up with the bath tub often filled with soaking fibres, and the smell of this is still vivid in my memory today. I wish my mum was still alive to see this resurgence of basketry/weaving.

    1. Thank you – how interesting to hear that your mother was a basket weaver! And my partner can certainly empathise with finding the bathtub filled with soaking fibres. 😉

      Did your mother use willow? I love the smell of damp willow – it’s one of the unexpected pleasures of basketmaking for me.

      1. I believe my mother used rattan, but saying that she called it raw cane. It seemed to require strong hands and patience.

        I’ve just been reading about rattan, the description of which and processing, helps me to say rattan. I’m wishing I had been more attentive…

      2. Rattan, cane, wicker – I think there are various names for it. It’s easier to work than willow (you don’t have to soak it for so long for a start!) but still makes a good rigid basket.

        I think most people wish they had paid more attention to what their parents did or said at some stage…

  3. Kim, your basket is stunning. I love the design which I’ve never seen before.
    Working with 8ft lengths. – you must be a human octopus!😂
    I’m envious of you managing a workshop but glad you enjoyed it

    1. Thank you Antje! The design is a bit u nusual – guess that’s why I was attracted to it. 🙂

      Working with 8ft rods did make me realise that if I want to work seriously with willow I will need to get a studio – it’s just not feasible in a domestic space!

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